Northrop Grumman reached its first construction milestone in the life of the new-generation aircraft carrier, CVN 21. The company cut one of the first pieces of steel, a 15-ton plate for a side shell unit of CVN 78, the first ship of the CVN 21 program.
Design work on the CVN 21 is underway at Northrop Grumman's Newport News sector, with the full construction contract anticipated in 2007. Advance construction began in 2005 to allow shipbuilders to test the design-build strategy before overall construction begins in 2007.
Each ship of the class is valued at approximately $8 billion.
The ceremony also served as the grand opening
for the shipyard's new heavy-plate bay facility, one of several new facilities built for CVN 21 construction. This facility houses some of the most
technologically advanced machines in the shipbuilding industry, including the ESAB Avenger 3-Telerex burning machine used in the steel-cut ceremony. Other new CVN 21 facilities include the covered modular-assembly facility, covered modular-outfitting facility and unit-assembly facility. These facilities will allow employees to work uninterrupted by the weather, and will house additional cranes to build pre-outfitting units to a higher degree of completion than on all previous carriers.
Ceremony participants included Mike Petters, president, Northrop Grumman Newport News
; Rep. Jo Ann Davis
(R-Va.-1st District); Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.-3rd District); U.S. Navy Rear Adm. David Architzel, program executive officer for aircraft carriers; Navy Rear Adm. H. Denby Starling II, commander, Naval air force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet; Navy Capt. Michael E. McMahon, commanding officer, supervisor of shipbuilding, conversion and repair, Newport News; Joe S. Frank, mayor, Newport News, Va; and employees from the CVN 21 program.
"CVN 78 will have improved capabilities over the Nimitz-class, a class of ships that
has proven very capable," said Petters. "CVN 21 is designed for efficiency over the 50-year lifecycle while providing America with the kind of forward presence unique to aircraft carriers and so critical in today's uncertain world."
Innovations for the CVN 21 program include an enhanced flight deck capable of increased sortie rates, improved weapons movement, a redesigned island, a new nuclear power plant, reduced manning and allowance for future technologies. These and many other evolutionary features are being developed to maximize efficiency and reduce acquisition costs, manning and weight while enhancing the ship's operational capabilities. Design and technology insertion costs are approximately $5.6 billion spread over the class of ships.